Building connections: Networking 101

Making connections inside (and outside) your business can be a key to your success. Whether you’re finding new clients/customers, expanding your network or forming valuable partnerships, effective networking can make all the difference. Let’s explore the basics of networking and how you can leverage multiple methods to build meaningful connections.

The networking basics

From LinkedIn to conferences and local events, networking sounds like quite the buzzword. But it’s not just a buzzword. It’s a strategic approach that can help you build meaningful relationships and connections. And that can have a significant impact on the growth and success of your business.

Networking gives you access to new opportunities, valuable insights into your industry and community, the ability to build trust and credibility with your peers, grow professionally and personally, and learn diverse perspectives.

It involves interacting with individuals and organizations within your industry and community who can help your business grow. These relationships can also lead to new customers, partnerships and referrals. Here are five ways you can build your network.

1. Attend networking events

While it may seem obvious, both online and in-person networking events are designed to bring people together for the sole purpose of creating connections.

  • Choose the right events for you. Look for events that cater to your community or industry. Be sure these events align with your business goals, and research the speakers, attendees and topics. You want your connections to be relevant and worthwhile.

  • Come prepared. Spend some time creating an elevator pitch so you’re ready to introduce yourself and your business. You’ll want to be able to explain what makes your business unique and how you can provide value to others.

  • Listen and respond accordingly. When you’re speaking with new connections, focus on active listening. Ask open-ended questions and show interest in their businesses and/or causes.

  • Follow up. Once the event is over, be sure to follow up with any people you’ve met. Send a personalized email or text message to show interest in future collaboration or conversations.

2. Stay social

Social media is a great place for networking in the digital age. When used properly, platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok and Facebook are powerful tools for small businesses to connect with their target audience. Make the most of your social [media] life by:

  • Creating a strong online presence. Make sure you maintain an active and professional presence on platforms that are relevant to you. Keep messaging consistent and on brand.

  • Engaging your audience. Interact with followers by sharing valuable content, responding to comments and initiating conversations through direct messages. Help spark engagement by using polls, surveys and questions in your posts.

  • Leveraging LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a dream come true for networking. Connect with industry peers, join groups relevant to your business and share thought leadership content that will resonate with your connections.

  • Hosting webinars or going live. Use Instagram or Facebook Live to host webinars, demonstrate products or even do an AMA (ask me anything) about your business. Encourage followers to participate and provide opportunities for interaction.

3. Engage with your community

Small businesses are an integral part of local communities. Being involved in community events provides incredible networking opportunities. Consider participating in charity events, local fairs or even sponsoring community initiatives. These activities can show your commitment to the community and connect you with potential customers and fellow business owners.

4. Collaborate and partner up

Collaborating with other small businesses is a powerful networking strategy. Focus on finding companies that share a similar target audience but offer different products and services than you do. Partnering with a complementary business can help you tap into each other’s customer base and resources. Co-hosting events or creating joint or cross-promotions can be mutually beneficial.

5. Join industry associations

Industry associations often host conferences, seminars and workshops to help you stay updated on industry trends and connect with peers in your field. Check with your local Chamber of Commerce or do a quick Google search to see the available associations in your area.

The importance of building connections

Networking is an essential part of your business’s success. Building connections with the right people through community engagement, networking events, social media, industry associations and collaboration can open the doors to new opportunities, growth and lasting relationships. Networking isn’t about what others can do for you—but how you can provide value to them.

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